With summer under way and June gloom finally behind us, backyard barbecue season has officially begun. But if you’d rather avoid the smoke and grill cleanup, a one-of-a-kind community gathering spot in San Marcos may be for you.
My Yard Live, which opened July 1 in the long-shuttered Hometown Buffet eatery in San Marcos, aims to re-create the sights, sounds and tastes of the backyard BBQ with a fenced play yard for kids, live music on two stages, house-smoked meats and craft beer brewed onsite.
My Yard Live is the brainchild of longtime San Diego business partners Mark McLarry and Jamie Minotti, who are both married men in their 40s with a combined five children. Minotti said My Yard Live doesn’t just accommodate young families, it welcomes them.
The project includes a 10,000-square-foot building that houses a 20-barrel brewery, an indoor music stage, a walk-up restaurant counter, a 36-seat full-service bar, a 25-seat private dining room, a video game arcade with table tennis and air hockey games and various table seating configurations. Outside there are two patio areas totaling 7,000 square feet. One is for adults, with a bar and live music stage that can be used for yoga classes and other community events. The other patio is for families with climbing structures, a tree house, bocce and shuffleboard courts and picnic tables.
My Yard Live’s menu was developed by culinary director David Chenelle of Santee and My Yard Live founding investor George McKerrow, who is the co-founder of Ted’s Montana Grill, a bison burger and steakhouse chain with 43 locations in 15 states.
Chenelle, 59, has spent the past 30 years working for high-end properties like the Hotel Del Coronado, Rancho Bernardo Inn and Coronado Yacht Club. Now a grandfather, Chenelle said he was excited at the opportunity to introduce a concept that re-created the disappearing concept of the traditional family dinner. He describes his menu as “comfort food taken to the next level.”
“It’s good-quality food in a simple presentation with no colorful garnishes … just down-to-earth, simple stuff at a reasonable price,” he said.
Diners can order brisket by the half-pound, ribs by the half or full rack and sausages by the link, as well as burgers, hot dogs, fish sandwiches and sides. House specialties include the whole beercan-style chicken, smoked salmon and whole Bahamian-style red snapper.
Hummus is being made in-house with pale ale brewed onsite by My Yard Live head brewer Benjamin “Shaggy” Blaney. Grain used in the beer-fermenting process is being recycled into the restaurant’s spent-grain bread. Chenelle describes the bread as rich, multigrain and far-less-dry than most wheat breads.
Chenelle said he’s excited to cook on the restaurant’s state-of-the-art Southern Pride smoker, which can cook up to 300 pounds of St. Louis-style ribs and beef brisket at a time.
The menu features the usual barbecue side dishes you might expect — like corn on the cob, cole slaw and mac ‘n’ cheese — as well as a dish close to the chef’s heart. Chenelle grew up in Peru on a diet of the country’s native, dark-yellow canary beans. He’s created a vegan recipe for these beans (which are a lighter color in the U.S.) that doesn’t use any bacon or animal fat. For this vegan recipe, Chenelle cooks the beans with garlic, onions, carrots and a rich base of roasted vegetables. Another option for non-meat-eaters is the BBQ jackfruit salad.
There’s also a “groms” children’s menu with options that include grilled cheese sandwiches, mac ‘n’ cheese, burgers, hot dogs and chicken tenders.
The desserts are all-American traditional dishes like the strawberry shortcake and banana split.
At the time of this interview, menu prices had not been set, but Chenelle said he and McKerrow were aiming for a $15 maximum price point per person so that My Yard Live could become a regular destination for families rather than the rare or special occasion.
“George and I feel strongly about providing a place where we can simulate that old-fashioned tradition of the family enjoying a backyard barbecue meal together,” Chenelle said. “I really enjoy the family-friendly gastropubs and microbreweries, but most of them target the 21-and-up crowd. They tolerate children, but none of them actually are embracing bringing children in like we do.”
My Yard Live, 288 Rancheros Dr., San Marcos, myyardlive.com